In the past few decades, advances in science and technology have made it possible to diagnose diseases earlier and more accurately, while therapies have become more effective and safe. The next big thing in healthcare is personalized medicine that factors in patients’ genes, environments and lifestyles. But with more treatment options becoming available and therapies narrowing down to the molecular level, some doctors argue that a more holistic approach is needed, shifting the focus from treating diseases to improving patients’ wellbeing.

However, as a side effect of treatments becoming more high tech, they are also becoming more expensive, which raises questions about the democracy of access to good health care. Already, health care costs put an enormous burden on national budgets and patients worldwide. And as countries increasingly struggle with the side effects of sedentary lifestyles and rapidly aging populations, governments, drug makers, insurers and health care providers need to make a concerted effort to ensure the affordability and availability of quality health care for all.

A different area that is gaining more interest is the intricate link between body and brain – and (surprise!) the microbes in our gut. As researchers are finding more clues to the why and how, it becomes increasingly clear that how we feel physically affects how we feel mentally – and vice versa. Read along to discover new insights and issues in health care, and what our gut feelings really tell us.

(photo of a hospital lab: Marijke de Jong)